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10/25/2010
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Wi-Fi Direct Products Connect Without A Network

Atheros, Broadcom, Intel, Ralink and Realtek form first test suite for certification program.

The first batch of Wi-Fi Direct products were formally certified Monday, launching a wireless technology in which devices will be able to communicate directly with each other without being on a network or without first connecting to a network access point.

According to the Wi-Fi alliance, the first certified 802.11n devices will be backward compatible with a vast range of Wi-Fi devices already on the market. The first Wi-Fi Direct products, which form the test suite for the certification program, are from Atheros, Broadcom, Intel, Ralink and Realtek.

“We designed Wi-Fi Direct to unleash a wide variety of applications which require device connections, but do not need the Internet or even a traditional network,” said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, in a statement. “Wi-Fi Direct empowers users to connect devices -- when, where and how they want to -- and our certification program delivers products that work well together, regardless of the brand.”

In an e-mail, Broadcom’s Vijay Nagarajan indicated certified products will be available “almost immediately.” Nagarajan, who is senior product manager of Broadcom’s WLAN business unit, noted that Broadcom has been sampling pre-standard drivers for some time.

In addition to its Wi-Fi Direct certified devices, Broadcom is offering its InConcert Maestro Applications Programming Interfaces in the program. As an example of how the Broadcom products will be able to be used by end users, Broadcom cited the examples of friends in a train or on a beach connecting seamlessly with each other without network assistance.

Citing file transfer and gaming applications as possible apps, Nagarajan said mass-market adoption will “depend on the type of applications that make use of the disruptive connection mechanisms offered through Wi-Fi Direct.”

With possibly the industry’s broadest range of Wi-Fi chips in a variety of products ranging from mobile phones and laptops to Blu-Ray players and TVs, Broadcom predicts Wi-Fi Direct products will serve a wide swath of users utilizing an even wider swath of devices.

Karl Stetson, a spokesman for the Wi-Fi Alliance, said the first Wi-Fi Direct devices are expected to be on the market by the end of the year. He added that it’s possible the technology may be available via a simple software upgrade. And he raises an interesting side benefit to the new technology: the possibility users can communicate via 802.11n, which can have a range of a few miles, over long distances, possibly encroaching on traditional turf of carriers. The long distance apps, however, would likely need to be specifically tuned rather than mainstream applications.

Nagarajan also endorsed the idea of Wi-Fi Direct technology delivering long distance connections. He noted that 11n speeds and range will be readily available in Wi-Fi Direct application devices. The first wave of certified product include Atheros XSPAN Dual-banc 802.11n PCI Mini Card, Broadcom’s BCM43224 Dual-Band 802.11n 2x2 MIMO PCIe Half Mini Card, Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200, Ralink MIMObility 802.11n 2x2 PCIe Half Mini Card, Realtek RTL8192CE-VA4 HM92C00 PCIe mini card. In addition, Cisco’s 2106 Wireless LAN Controller and its Aironet 1240 Series Access Points are utilized in the certification test suites.

Because Wi-Fi Direct is a software-only protocol, device manufacturers will not need to produce any additional radio and antenna hardware for their products.

SEE ALSO: WiFi Direct Could Surpass Bluetooth

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